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Clinton Takes Hard Stance on Underage Drinking and Driving


September 1995

In his June 10 weekly radio address, President Clinton advocated stiffening penalties for young people who drink and drive (Associated Press, "Clinton Seeks Stiffer Law on Drinking and Driving," New York Times, June 11, 1995, p. 29).

Clinton proposed new legislation that will implement incentives and sanctions for states to lower the blood alcohol content threshold for drivers under 21 years of age. He said that .02 percent, or the level caused by one beer, should be the threshold for drivers under 21 to be subject to punishment.

The blood alcohol threshold that triggers legal sanctions (typically a Driving Under the Influence arrest) currently varies in states from .08 percent to .10 percent. So-called "zero tolerance" laws to prohibit any drinking and driving by young people are already in effect in 24 states.

"After all, if it's illegal for people under 21 to drink at all, it should certainly be illegal for them to drink and drive," Clinton said. "That's a nobrainer."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the American Automobile Association, the National Safety Council, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety support "zero tolerance" legislation.

Although President Clinton advocated "zero tolerance" laws in the radio address, he has no plan yet to pursue such legislation, White House Public Liaison Officer Jessie Marr told NewsBriefs on August 8.

[NewsBriefs readers should be alert that this issue may be confused with drunk driving. Driving by a minor who has illegally consumed alcohol is not drunken driving. To call this drunk driving is an exaggeration. It improperly stigmatizes kids who are drinking moderately, if illegally and irresponsibly, as "drunk drivers." -- EES.]

To obtain a copy of this speech, readers can use the White House Publications Fax Line by calling 202-395-9088 and requesting publication number 0668. Most presidential remarks, speeches, press briefings, radio addresses, and some letters can be obtained through this service.